It’s not often a performance in Formula 1 leaves you in complete disbelief. Amazement, sure, that’s one thing. But an actual state of incredulousness where it seems you must be missing something is rare, but on Saturday, that’s exactly what Lewis Hamilton produced.
At first, I thought it was just an error. The timing screens had updated Hamilton’s time at the end of Q3 but no-one else’s. How else could he be 1.2 seconds ahead of the pack? Or maybe he’d exceeded track limits. Or maybe everyone had agreed not to go below 1:20 in the wet and Lewis didn’t get the memo? But no, he’s just that good.
And yes, Max Verstappen would’ve been closer had he not come across Sebastian Vettel trundling his shattered expectations back to the Ferrari garage, but he still wasn’t getting remotely close. No, Saturday was one of those days where was just a class unto himself, and whatever you feel about the man, you can’t deny his brilliance as a racing driver.
An exceptionally disappointing day for Racing Point, who went from looking like they had a shot at the podium on Friday, to not even remotely close on Saturday. Really makes you think they could use a champion driver…
On the flip side, how about George Russell? It’s not exactly easy to gauge the performance of a driver in an uncompetitive car with equally uncompetitive teammates, but days like Saturday lead me to believe he is indeed for real.
What to make of the rumours that we could be in for a third-straight race in Austria due to Hungary’s restrictions on UK passport-holders? The Hungaroring certainly delivered a memorable race last year, but generally it’s not as conducive to wheel-to-wheel racing as the Red Bull Ring is. For what it’s worth, the tyre allocation for next week is the same C2-C4 range as we’ve had this past fortnight, so logistically it’s definitely feasible.
Sunday race strategy preview, courtesy of Pirelli
Tomorrow should be dry with temperatures lower than last week’s Austrian Grand Prix. The fastest strategy for the 71-lap race is still expected to be a one-stopper, but with a slightly different look to last Sunday: where the soft tyre in particular proved to be very competitive. So the theoretically quickest way tomorrow is to start on the soft tyre for 28 to 33 laps and then complete the race on the hard compound.
The second-quickest strategy is to start on the medium tyre for 30 to 35 laps, then switch to the soft until the end. This strategy could be reversed as well, starting instead on the soft and finishing on the medium for the final stint.
Almost as quick is a one-stopper with a start on the medium tyre for 24 to 30 laps, then hard to the finish.
Finally, a two-stopper is definitely slower: two stints on the soft tyre for 24 to 26 laps each, then medium to the end.